Joseph Paul DeWise

Joseph Paul DeWise enters Gallatin County District Court on Tuesday for his trial.

The Joseph Paul DeWise trial went into its fifth day on Friday, and the jury heard testimony from forensic scientists, friends of the victim and law enforcement.

DeWise is on trial for the murder of his estranged wife Lauren DeWise and the shooting of her roommate, Ashley Van Hemert, in January of 2018 in Belgrade. Prosecutors have been building their case for the past five days with expert witnesses, Van Hemert herself and testimony from people close to the family, including two of DeWise’s children.

The defense will have the opportunity to call their own witnesses next week. The trial continues on Monday.

Detective Sgt. Jeremy Kopp with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office testified Friday afternoon as one of the lead detectives on the case. While he was on the stand, the jury heard a recording of a phone call between DeWise and his daughter Natalie that Kopp collected.

DeWise was in jail, having been arrested and charged with deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide. He called Natalie and told her he couldn’t talk to her anymore because a court order was preventing him from calling. DeWise was later charged for disobeying the order by making the call.

Kopp said he found this call concerning because DeWise was giving Natalie a narrative in which he was innocent and wanted his son, Joe, to confess to the crime.

“If that’s what he feels like he should do, then there won’t be a trial and I can get out of here,” DeWise said on the call.

DeWise asked Natalie what she thought the chances of that happening were, and she said she didn’t know.

The defendant’s attorney asked if DeWise said on the call that Joe should give a false confession, and Kopp said no.

Kopp interviewed DeWise’s son twice shortly after the incident happened.

During the first interview, Joe said he had spent the whole night of Jan. 6, 2018, at home with his father and two sisters, that they watched movies and went to bed at 2 a.m.

Kopp said he was given evidence in the middle of that interview that put size 6 to 6 ½ shoes at the crime scene, and that those were the size of shoes Joe wore. Kopp said that made Joe a suspect in the case.

In the second interview, the next day, Joe was questioned by Kopp with his mother present. He was 15 at the time.

During that interview, Joe changed his story, Kopp said. Joe told him he went to Lauren’s residence with his father the night of Jan. 6, and then “his father killed Lauren and shot Ashley.”

Joe testified Thursday that his father killed Lauren and shot Van Hemert.

During cross examination, Annie DeWolf, DeWise’s defense attorney, asked Kopp if he told Joe that he wanted to save him. Kopp said that sounded like something he would say, and put it into context by explaining the way he conducts interviews.

“You are trying to to help them understand that even with consequence, we can still save you, we can save you from the burden. You’re a kid, we can save this,” Kopp said.

Kopp also testified about an interview he conducted with Natalie DeWise, the defendant’s daughter. In an initial interview in January of 2018, she said she didn’t know what had happened the night of the crime.

Natalie contacted law enforcement earlier this fall, Kopp said, and asked to give a statement. Kopp happened to be in Florida where the DeWise children live with their mother to prep for the trial and for police training. He met with Natalie there.

During that interview, Natalie “confirmed that the defendant killed Lauren,” Kopp said.

Natalie testified Wednesday that her father told her that he killed Lauren the morning after it happened.

Bonnie Kleitz, forensic specialist in gunshot residue from the Montana State Crime Lab, testified Friday morning.

Kleitz, a chemist, was sent samples and swabs of DeWise’s jacket and hands, Joe’s jacket, Lauren’s pillowcase, and various parts of the car. She did not find evidence of gunshot residue on Joe’s jacket or on the front door handles to DeWise’s car.

Kleitz did find particles that were characteristic of gunshot residue on DeWise’s jacket and on the cover of the driver’s seat of DeWise’s car.

A defense attorney asked Kleitz if gunshot residue can be transferred to other objects and she said yes.

Later, a former coworker and friend of Lauren DeWise, Kelly Boldy, testified that Lauren told her DeWise was abusive, and that she saw bruises on Lauren that she understood to have come from DeWise’s abuse.

The prosecutor asked Boldy if she knew why Lauren was afraid to leave DeWise.

“He would kill her,” Boldy said.

Shaylee Ragar can be reached at or at 582-2607.

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